Interview with Alexander Rahr: “Presumption: How Germany is gambling away its reputation with the Russians”? ”The EU is losing its monopoly on Europe”

Interview with Alexander Rahr: “Presumption: How Germany is gambling away its reputation with the Russians”? ”The EU is losing its monopoly on Europe”

Global Review had again the honor of interviewing Prof. Alexander Rahr, expert on Russian affairs, political scientist, member of the Valdai Club, Putin advisor for Gazprom to the EU and author of the new book “Presumption”. After an initial complaint that we hadn’t read the book carefully, there is some praise again at the end. Alexander Rahr is an honorary professor at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations and School of Economics. He studied at the State University of Munich, worked 1980-1994 for the Research Institute for Radio Free Europe, the Federal Institute for Eastern European and International Studies. He was a consultant to the RAND Corporation, USA. From 1994 to 2012 he headed the Russian / Eurasian Center at the German Council for Foreign Relations. He then consulted Wintershall Holding and later Gazprom Brussels on European affairs. Furthermore, he was also a frequent guest of Putin as a conversation partner. Since 2012 he has been program director at the German-Russian Forum. He is a member of the Petersburg Dialogue, the Valdai Club, the Yalta European Strategy Network, author of several books on Russia.

Global Review: Prof. Rahr, you raise quite far-reaching allegations against the German Merkel government, including in your new book. That Russia had lost confidence in Germany because of her. Now it has to be said that the German goverment was accused of not wanting Georgia and Ukraine to join the EU and NATO, and that it had played into the hands of Putin and his aggression. In the Minsk Group on Ukraine she had deliberately kept the Crimean question out, stuck to Nordstream 2, telephoned with Putin too often. That seems to be more goodwill on the part of the German Merkel government, and would also be maintained under Söder and Laschet, especially since this is seen as appeasement and naivety from an Eastern European and US point of view. Isn’t your judgment highly unfair and simply wrong?

Alexander Rahr: Read the book first before you criticize me. I don’t even criticize the Merkel government for its Russia policy. My book is called “Presumption. How Germany is gambling away its reputation with the Russians ”and describes the development of German-Russian relations, largely from a Russian perspective, but also from a German perspective, as if from a bird’s eye view. The reader will get his money’s value when he learns how the bilateral relationship – I use the word love-hate relationship – has developed over three centuries. As an author, I don’t even speak in the book. I let others talk: young Russians, Russian entrepreneurs, Russian emigrants in Berlin, also Russian politicians, diplomats, opinion pollers, cultural workers, clergy. I organized surveys in Russia myself to make the book more authentic. The candy at the end of the book: a debate about the status and future of the relationship between a possible successor to Merkel and a possible heir to Putin. I don’t want to reveal more, just this much: The Russians are always eager to learn about us Germans, but they hate it when you want to raise your fingers to educate them in democracy. And we often do it brazenly, or just presumptuously.

Global Review: Should the German government go back to the positions of the Schröder government? Russia and China in a G9, a “Eurasization” of the transatlantic alliances, in which Europe acts as a mediator and its own force? Trump was in favor of a G11 with Russia as long as it turns against China. Macron wanted a sovereign Europe with the illusory idea of a European army under the Force de Frappe and the Grand Nation, but also as a counterweight to China. Isn’t Merkel-Germany’s position more balanced or what does Putin-Russia actually want? You once said that Putin wanted to establish a new world order with Trump, but what should it look like? And now with a Biden government?

Alexander Rahr: I would like to answer the question of how Russia actually thinks about the world. There’s a lot about that in my new book. I criticize the fact that we in the Western universities, think tanks and media always examine Russia and its politics from our point of view and ignore or mostly misunderstand the Russian point of view. Also at the risk of being branded again as a “Russia understander” and a Kremlin propagandist – I insist that in our Russia analyzes we should also put ourselves in the shoes of our Russian counterparts. I don’t see that as shameful, on the contrary. To answer your question specifically: Russia wants (a) as a great power to consolidate its Eurasian sphere of influence, (b) to have the same say in Europe as Germany, France, Great Britain, and ultimately also the USA. Russia wants (c) with the permanent member states in the UN Security Council to install a world government that determines the future global rules of the game. Putin thought he had four of the permanent members on board with Xi Jinping, Trump, Macron (and himself).

Global Review: Putin rejects the treaties signed with the West under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Be it the Budapest Treaty, which guarantees the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, be it the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which also states that the respective economic or military alliances are allowed to expand to the post-Soviet Union. Would Putin then also question German reunification and the 2 plus 4 treaties? How far does Russian revisionism go and if the treaties were renegotiated, what specific demands would Russia have now and when would it be saturated? And to what extent does the Helsinki Final Act, which also provided for the free choice of alliances, still apply to Putin?

Alexander Rahr: Putin takes the position that the treaties that were concluded after the end of the Cold War are in many ways “foul” and therefore obsolete. They would be more of a dictate of the West towards Russia, written and signed during a period of historical weakness in Russia. But now, Putin says in all of his speeches, Russia is once again playing in the first league of world politics. Basically, he wants a new world government in the UN Security Council to “correct” the “mistakes” made between 1990 and 2020. With NATO’s eastward expansion to Eastern Europe, Russia today feels swept away by the West. I don’t know any Russian, not even in the liberal camp, who approves of the violent separation of Kosovo from Serbia. Why is the West allowed to break international law and Russia not in Ukraine? Russia says: The West has treated us from the beginning as losers of the Cold War. The Russian empire must be prevented for all time. But Russia desperately wants to regain its lost size – and inevitably comes up against geopolitical fronts in the West. In the book you will find a long list of “wishes” that Russia makes for us in the West. These are all questions that we do not want to discuss with the Russians at all because we consider them ludicrous. Russia lost the Cold War and should obey the democratic rules of the game.

Global Review: Putin-Russia is an authoritarian dictatorship. But that might be exactly the problem. Putin does not want to be as neo-totalitarian as the CP China, allows elections, opposition groups and even parties, he only controls the internet and social media to a limited extent, allows a lot of leeway for Navalny and the opposition, sometimes resorts to political murders, but not the systematic smashing of oppositional structures, but only a few leaders. Unthinkable in China. If it were only about values, it would have to be The West is much more angry with China than with Putin-Russia. Or is it simply because the liberal West does not dare to oppose China’s neototalitarian gorilla economy and prefers to attack Russia, which is economically much weaker, and its less authoritarian system to compensate. What is to be made of the thesis that there are forces within the Russian elites and oligarchs who want Putin away and are therefore trying to widen this freedom, also for Navalny? What would actually happen if Putin were to resign and appoint or appoint a successor?

Alexander Rahr: Good and important questions that you ask me. You can read extensively in my book about the Navalny case, its consequences for bilateral relations and democracy in Russia. Why is the West more critical of Russia than it is of China? Quite simply: Russia is in Europe, China is not. NATO was designed to contain the Soviet Union, not China. NATO has now returned to its old mission and is now containing Russia. The NATO bureaucracy learned that in the Cold War. Are there forces in Russia who want Putin away? Sure, but they’re not strong enough. Putin has created a unique political system that relies on him personally and is only dependent on him. With this architecture he has surpassed all his predecessors at the top of Russia. Even Stalin had to consult the Politburo from time to time. Putin doesn’t need a politburo, he rules Russia all by himself. Therefore, it will be difficult to replace him. It is inconceivable that a single politician can simply inherit all of this power. And Putin knows about the risks of changing power. That is why he cannot and does not want to vacate his office.

Global Review: There may be a compromise on the Nord Stream II question. Nord Stream II will be completed and put into operation when a West Stream for the USA is established on the other side across the Atlantic to Western Europe. But if this point of contention between the US, the EU and Russia were resolved, how will relations between the West and Russia develop? Both sides want to extend the START agreement, but which areas will remain and where are possible solutions and where not?

 Alexander Rahr: Oh, I know a lot of areas where cooperation, even alliances, are possible. I can name several possible fields of cooperation: Green Deal, as a common fight against environmental and climate pollution. Rebuilding the Middle East, fighting Islamism that threatens everyone in the South. Russia as a bridge between Europe and Asia – the key word is connectivity. Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Joint space exploration. And if you want: contain China.

Global Review: Poland is planning a Baltic Pipe to supply Eastern Europe and the Ukraine with gas, especially as it appears to be in competition with Lithuania. To what extent is this a realistic means of upgrading Poland as a regional power? How do you assess the role of Poland after Brexit GB and that of the Weimar Triangle?

 Alexander Rahr: I’ll say it very cheekily. In the book, my protagonists don’t mince words either. Poland wants to take on the role of Great Britain as the third leading power in the EU. Poland tries to rally the East Central Europeans and (a) to make the Weimar Triangle the European government and (b) to oppose the Visegrad group of states to the Franco-German claim to power in Europe. We must not forget that the Central and Eastern Europeans joined the West through NATO and not the EU.

Global Review: How do you assess how the new Biden government will treat Europe in comparison with Asia, especially Germany, France and Poland? In Germany there will probably be a new black-green government this year and there will be presidential elections in France again in 2022. What impact do you think this will have on Macron’s demand for European sovereignty and relations with Russia?

Alexander Rahr: The East Central Europeans, I mean Poland, the Baltic States and Romania, do not want a common European area with Russia. You want the EU to be anchored in the Transatlantic Community and to be absorbed there. They reject European autonomy under Franco-German leadership. The US wants a Europe from Vancouver to Donetsk, with Ukraine – but without Russia. The Germans and the French want a common Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok in the long term. Biden will certainly promote this idea and as long as the US determines Europe’s security policy, there will be no Europe with Russia, never. On the other hand, the cards are being reshuffled in Europe. Great Britain is now, next to the EU, a “different” Europe, Turkey wants a say in Europe and suddenly upholds the legacy of the Ottoman Empire. Russia wants Europe to be ruled by a concert of the strongest powers. The EU is losing its monopoly on Europe, which the European elites will not be able to cope with. But I don’t want to play Nostradamus here.

Global Review: In his first speech, Biden named Russia and China as the main rivals of the West and the USA, extended the START contract by 5 years, and at the same time, unlike Trump, emphasized the importance of NATO and the validity of Article 5, stopped the withdrawal of US troops from Germany, relocated B-2 bombers to Scandinavia. How do you assess the new foreign policy of the Biden government? A simple reset of the Obama administration?

Alexander Rahr: The primary task of the new US president will be to reunite his people. It won’t be easy because Trump will get involved in politics. I think Biden is politically weak. In the US, the deep state will take over controll. And issue the maxim in foreign policy: Prevent a multipolar world at all costs, in which China and Russia want to set the tone. An intensification of the conflicts is certain. China’s economic growth will be halted by trade wars, the USA will try to do so in any case and the Europeans will be included in this Great Game. Russia will feel the moral club of Western human rights policy – the Biden administration hopes that by joining forces, including the Russian opposition movement, he can get rid of Putin by 2024 at the latest. For the Biden administration, which will remain in power through 2025 and perhaps longer, this is a seductive but unrealizable goal.

Global Review: How are relations between Russia and China, India and the rest of Asia developing? Are there any noteworthy changes? What about Putin’s threat to enter into a military alliance with China? Does this even meet with Chinese approval?

Alexander Rahr: No, China has denied a military alliance with Russia. China does not want to get the chestnuts out of the fire for Russia. When it comes to showing NATO its limits, China says Russia must come to terms with the West itself or argue with the West alone. But Putin takes a different view. He is convinced that a Russia-China military pact will be the logical answer to the Western offensive against the two powers that are adversaries of the West. Personally, I think Putin is not wrong. After Hong Kong, if China wants to become a world power, sooner or later Taiwan will be incorporated into its national territory. That will be difficult, because China – like Russia with the annexation of Crimea – would oppose the entire world community. At this point at the latest, Xi will remember Moscow’s invitation to join a military alliance against the West.

Global Review: NATO seeks to reform. There is also a NATO reform paper NATO 2030, which was drawn up by a working group headed by Thomas De Maiziere and Wess Mitchell, in which Russia and China are named as the main opponents. Annegret Krampf-Karrenbauer has also published an 8-page position paper with the General Inspector of the Bundeswehr Zorn, which provides for extensive reforms of the Bundeswehr, the increased reorientation towards national defense as well as the state institutions – from national security advisor to parliamentary security week. How do you estimate that the NATO and Bundeswehr reforms will affect relations with Russia?

Alexander Rahr: Russia doesn’t take the Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) seriously. In Russia they know about the technical and operational difficulties within the German troops. The NATO paper, on the other hand, is being studied. The Russians take the United States very seriously. The answer to this will be an intensification of the Russo-Chinese maneuvers, and attempts to bind Turkey to the Eurasian Union and lure Turkey out of NATO will increase massively. At the same time, Putin will always be open to a return to equal cooperation with NATO, which existed before NATO expansion in the 90ties.

Global Review: Putin seems to be sticking to the resource empire, while the EU and now the Biden government want a new New Green Deal and a climate-neutral EU by 2050. Especially since there will probably be a black-green government after the federal elections in 2021. While Europe has no oil and gas except for the UK and Norway, the US has become the leading fracking and oil and gas export nation. Are the interests of Russia and OPEC  possibly closer to US interests than with the EU despite all the Biden administration’s verbal commitments to renewable energies and a New Green Deal?

Alexander Rahr: First of all: You are repeating for the second time that you are expecting a new black-green government in autumn. I, on the other hand, expect a traffic light coalition: CDU / CSU-SPD-FDP. There are simply too great differences between the CDU and the Greens. The Greens may become the second largest party, but it will be enough for another governing coalition. The SPD leaders are suspiciously silent on the question of government participation after the federal elections. A Green Deal between the big countries USA, Russia and China is more productive than the big climate-neutral promises of the EU. The EU cannot tackle climate and environmental protection on its own. Only if the “big ones” take the initiative can the world be saved from dangerous warming in the long term.

 Global Review: Liberal regime change proponents say: Everything will be better without Putin. At the moment the hope is that Navalny will fix it. Nevertheless, assessments in the West regarding Nawalny’s role are different. Some see him as the new Russian president, but admit to others that he was everything from ultra-nationalist to democratic in his political positions. In Jimmy Lai’s Hong Kong opposition newspaper The Apple Daily, the Chinese oppositionist Wang Dan praises Navalny for his political breadth, which includes everything from the far left to the far right, so that a mass movement can use the latest media and technologies and be a prime example of how the Communist Party of China could be toppled. But nobody really knows what Navalny wants. German correspondents such as Ina Ruck and former ZEIT editor Theo Sommer describe Navalny at best as a “democratic nationalist”. Others believe that he only has an “icebreaker” function, so gathering strength from all sides and breaking the breach against Putin without him remaining the leader or even becoming president, but because the opposition’s own momentum paves the way, but nobody could known what force will ultimately prevail. Even Boris Reitschuster, Putin’s most exposed critic in Germany, points out that the Russian opposition has very few liberal-democratic forces, but rather a large number of nationalists and right-wing extremists. It is also noticeable that the Western reporting only cites the urban youthful supporters of Navalny and long-established Russian democrats, but at the same time also seriously discusses Shirinovsky’s people, such as the deposed governor or crazy shamans such as the green newspaper taz, as real options, especially since Navalny is now initiating a nationwide movement How will Putin react to that? Towards neototalitarianism ala China, repression, political and economic reforms, expatriation or murder of Navalny?

Alexander Rahr: I’m almost overwhelmed. Sorry for always coming back to my book. But in the book I also describe the Navalny case from the perspective of the Russian mainstream, which is of no interest to anyone in this country. Navalny has electoral support of 4-5 percent in Russia. Zhirinovsky and the communist Zyuganov have rather more and Putin tops the list of top politicians with 35 percent. In Russia, the people believe that the Navalny case is a provocation by the West against Russia. Most people completely ignore the poisoning of Navalny in their own thinking as if it did not exist. In his investigative films against the FSB and about the supposed Putin castle, one sees clumsy attempts by the West to weaken Russia. You yourself say that Russia is more nationalistic than democratic. Many in the West rub their eyes in disbelief: it was thought that the Russian people would now demonstrate for Navalny. Instead, large sections of the patriotic-minded elite accuse him of treason because he cooperates with Western secret services against Putin. For a democracy like the one in the West, there are no majorities in Russia today. We in the West are not believing these polls from Russia. Still, they are true.

Global Review: You are always quoting two essential points for the changing German-Russian relations. On the one hand the termination of the modernization partnership, on the other hand the Pussy Riot moment when Merkel and the Russian representatives met and Merkel made Pussy Riot an issue, which caused perplexity on the Russian side, as they did not expect that a marginal, insignificant Punk band could be a serious point of the day for geopolitical consultations. However, you have not shown why the modernization partnership failed, but only who could possibly be held responsible for it: the Greens. But what did the modernization partnership include? Schröder must have thought primarily of economic modernization in Russia, perhaps with the rule of law dialogue. , but human rights and democracy for the “flawless democrat” Putin are not even demanded, but already approved. Was it because Putin neither wants democratization nor strives for economic modernization? Because relies on a resource empire and does not want other industries from IT to services?

Alexander Rahr: You should go to Russia as soon as possible. And don’t read the daily media reports in your country, all of which falsely report that the Russian economy is about to collapse. The West has never understood Russia and has never wanted to understand it. Today, Russia is way ahead of Germany when it comes to digitization. Economic modernization is underway, but without democracy, liberal values, human rights and legal security. Today only 49 percent of the state budget is filled by the sale of fossil fuels. Russia is developing into a country with a highly developed service sector. The real problem is the lack of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the framework for the economy in Germany. Russia does not need the modernization from the West that goes hand in hand with the transfer of democracy. In terms of modernization partnerships, Russia is now orienting itself towards Asia. The Russians have recognized. The music is played in Asia today, not in Europe. The Asian industrial engines are roaring, after the end of the pandemic, Asia will be even stronger against the EU. In Russia, the lockdown has been lifted everywhere, people are reassured in the media and not – as in Western Europe – made even more anxious about the virus infection. Sputnik V seems to be the best vaccine in the world. In Germany, the government authorities fail to vaccinate, produce vaccines, procure masks and perform rapid tests. Everyone can see the difference here; if I say that, nobody can blame me for doing propaganda for Russia. Russia wants to integrate itself economically into Asia, not Europe. But Putin does not want to break with Europe. I think he’s waiting for changes in the EU.

 Global Review: In between a personal question. What about the Bellingcat offshoot The Insider Story about Baron von Bossner, who is said to have held reading events with you organized by his Russian Orthodox Philanthropic Society, and who is allegedly an FSB agent of Lavrov and Putin who organizes cocaine smuggling and other intelligence business. In the photo you and Sarah Wagenknecht can be seen with Baron von Bossner. Aside from the fact that the US and the CIA are likely to have similar creatures like a Baron von Bossner on their payroll, what is your explanation?

Alexander Rahr: The baron is a well-known Russian patron in Germany. Google him – there you will find all the information about him. Photos with much more important politicians than Wagenknecht or myself. He sponsors churches, the Vienna Ball in Berlin and other festive and club events in Berlin. Everything is kosher. He does not deal in drugs, but is an honorable entrepreneur who focuses on the production of cigars and cognac. I often met him at Berlin parties before Corona. He once invited me to present my political novel “2054” to a wider audience. The fact that Bellingcat and its offshoots also produce fake news is really nothing unusual and shouldn’t come as a surprise to you  either.

Global Review: What are the chances for an ecological cooperation betweenthe  EU and Russia from the reforestation of the Siberian forests, development of soft dacha tourism, conversion to methanol and hydrotechnology, support of cooperation with Russian start-ups and companies in the fields of green and smart Cities, sustainable agricultural cooperation including the consideration of artificial meat and a protection agreement for the Arctic? Is a New Green Deal between Russia and the EU and with other great powers and states possible?

Alexander Rahr: The answer to these questions is clearly yes. I think organizations like the Club of Rome, which deals with questions about the future, but also other institutions and NGOs should work out a useful concept on how to create a common, green, ecological and one day climate-neutral area from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Such a concept, which also includes a hydrogen cooperation instead of a gas alliance, will generate enthusiasm. Russia’s forests and steppes are even more important to us than the Amazon forests in America. I ask myself in all seriousness why politicians in this country don’t come up with the idea of a Green Deal with Russia. Unfortunately, the Greens are far too stubborn in their rejection of Russia. The CDU chairman Armin Laschet, should he one day become Merkel’s successor, would – I am sure – take on this problem immediately.

Global Review: Putin has supported Trump, the Front National and the AfD and other right-wing parties and agitators in the West. However, this was very unofficial and rather secret. Now Lavrov has officially invited the AfD to the Kremlin and not the other pro-Russian supporters in Germany such as the Left Party or Gysi or a Schwesig or Platzeck, but neo-fascists. Putin tries again and again to praise the Second World War, honors the merits of these veterans and at the same time defiles them when he invites German neo-fascists and belittlers of Hitler’s Reich. Should a Nazi Höcke soon be in the gallery of honor on Red Square for the celebrations for the Great Antifascist Patriotic War? It only seems to be about not introducing real-political solutions between a liberal West and a semi-authoritarian Putin-Russia, but only about regime change and support of the most radical, perhaps also fascist forces. What do you think of Lavrov and Putin?

Alexander Rahr: I asked Russia what the invitation to the AfD was all about. I received a peppery answer: You in Germany support Navalny, an opponent of the Kremlin. You want to force a regime change by him. We Russians are now holding up the mirror to you and talking to your most important opposition – the AfD. Is that uncomfortable for you? Then you see how we feel when you do politics with Navalny. Putin himself has nothing to do with the AfD, does not meet with it and does not finance it. Lavrov keeps saying that Russia is part of Europe. Russia cannot be driven out of Europe. If the liberal ruling elite in the EU give Russia the cold shoulder, Moscow will in future cooperate with those countries, nations and political forces in Europe that want to maintain a friendly relationship with Russia. I am expecting Lavrow’s invitation to the Left in the near future. Moscow will have to strike the right balance if it wants to work with opposition members in Germany. Nevertheless, with its tradition of Ostpolitik, the SPD remains the most constructive and dearest partner of the Russian leadership and civil society. I think Russia would be extremely happy to have Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The CDU and the Greens are too fundamentalist about Russia. The FDP stupidly gambled away the legacy of Genscher, who was a friend of Russia.

Global Review: There is now a debate in the US as to whether the US should do more engagement, coopetition or containment with China. Engagement is out. However, the weights are different. Biden seems to be mobilizing more against Russia again than again showing consideration for China. The Trumpists and Republicans disagree on this. Trump saw China and Iran as the main enemy, Russia and North Korea as potential partners, while Mike Pompeo drummed against all 4 more like in the National Security Strategy (NSS), including Russia. In the last cyberattack on the United States, it was significant that Trump suspected China behind it, while Mike Pompeo saw Russia behind it. Now a paper in the tradition of George Kennan’s containment has appeared at the Atlantic Council, “The Longer Telegram”, which is supposed to bring the positions of Trump and Pompeo into a new synthesis. On the one hand multilateralism and alliances with NATO, EU, Quad, etc., on the other hand in Trump’s vision a cooperation with Putin-Russia – “whether we like it or not” – to fight China. But who besides Trump and Pompeo could bring together such a foreign policy consensus within the Republicans, especially since free trade is not even discussed if it is not invented? How do Putin and Russia see the Longer Telegram? Is Putin betting on getting Trump back in 2024 to prevent a Pompeo or is the Kremlin changing its foreign policy line to a more pragmatic course, waiting between Biden and the next election of a Republican-US presidential candidate?

Alexander Rahr: It is far too early, to say the least, to speculate about what relations between Russia and the United States will be like in four years, when new presidents are elected in the United States and Russia. You want to hear the Russian point of view from me, right? I just don’t want to be beaten up in the media for delivering bad news. I don’t want be Russia´s mouthpiece or criticize Germany all the time. The fact that the FAZ accuses me of damaging my reputation in Germany because I’m close to Putin is absurd. The opposite should be the case. Germany should be happy to have citizens who are thoroughly familiar with the affairs of neighboring countries. I advocate normalizing bilateral relations and criticize the fact that someone from outside is constantly trying to question the historically grown relations between Moscow and Berlin. So what does Russia want? Quite simply: respect. Respect for Russian national interests – especially from the US, but also from the EU. I outlined Russia’s global interests at the beginning of our very interesting interviews. I shouldn’t repeat them so as not to weary the reader. In conclusion, however, I have to admit that relationships will not improve. Russia will ask us to accept Crimea as part of Russia. But we won’t do that. Nevertheless, I believe that the Crimean problem will evaporate over time, just as Northern Cyprus, occupied by Turkey, is no longer a bone of contention in international politics.

Global Review: How do you see developments in the Greater Middle East? Where are Russia’s priorities and what is it trying to achieve in this crisis arc, especially with regard to Turkey, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia?

Alexander Rahr: Quite simply, Russia wants to play a role as a world power in the reorganization of the Middle East. Russia sees US influence on the region declining and the Middle East coming under Chinese influence towards the middle of our century. Russia today offers the West to create the new world order together. Should the West refuse Russia this request, Moscow will lean more and more on China to determine the future of world politics as a partner of the Chinese – in a multipolar world. Russia wants to lure Turkey into the Eurasian Union. Moscow remains closely connected with Iran. Saudi Arabia is Russia’s most important partner in the new OPEC + 1. Russia has excellent relations with Israel. A third of the Israeli population consists of former Soviet citizens or their descendants.

Global Review: Putin is increasingly courting Pakistan, just as, conversely, Pakistan acts more as a mediator between the USA, India, China and Russia in the Great Game on the Silk Road. Joint maneuvers were also held in Pakistan between the US, Chinese-Russian and NATO countries? How does this affect Indo-Russian relations?

Alexander Rahr: As far as Russian-Indian relations are concerned, I refer to our mutual Russian friend and political scientist Vladimir Kulikow in Moscow. He believes Russia would feel far more comfortable in Asian alliances than in the web of constant conflicts with its European neighbors. In Asia, politics is currently made much less ideological, which used to be different before. India plays the anchor of stability for Asian security and economic policy. Moscow will do everything possible to make the Shanghai Cooperation Organization the nucleus of an Asian order. Member states such as China, India, Pakistan are welded together with Russia and the Central Asian countries. The West is overlooking a historical development here. Finally, allow me to compliment Global Review. By publishing important interviews with personalities such as Gregor Gysi, Jürgen Todenhöfer, General Klaus Naumann and other analyzes, Global Review makes a more important contribution to the foreign policy debate in Germany than numerous think tanks in Germany that only allow mainstream politicians to speak.

Comment Global Review:

Dr.Rahr is very close to Putin,was many times invited to a lunch or brunch with him.However one has to keep in mind that parts of our interviews are Kremlin propaganda,while other parts might be an insight and back  channel to find out,what Putin and the Russians imagine and want.

As far as I understand it so far, the interview and book have to be examined under two aspects:

 1) Kremlin propaganda that tries to make Russia’s weaknesses forgotten and to make it appear stronger than it is. Indices: Putin’s alleged Stalin strength, Sputnik as the best serum in the world, upcoming SCO despite the Sino-Indian conflict and Quad, assessment of the Russian economy

 2) Wishful ideas and demands of Putin: New world government, revision of the period from 1990 to the successor period, wish list in the book. If these are Putin’s demands, aren´t they wishful thinking? To what extent can the West respond to them? In this case: Does Putin speculate because of his own weakness that a Taiwan conflict could create a Sino-Russian military alliance to save him before his own decline? But the most important question is: in view of Russian weakness, does Putin still remain a rational actor or does he not flee into an irrational world of myths or is it played in order to appear more threatening and thereby intimidate the West like Reagan did with the Soviet Union with his “Evil Empire” and nuclear bombing jokes?

In addition to the revisionist demands, the threatening gestures and the emphasis on Russia’s supposed strength, constructive tones can also be heard if the West treats the Crimean question as marginally in the future as the Cyprus question and changes its regime change behavior. Then the following perspectives could also be possible:

Alexander Rahr: “Oh, I know a lot of areas where cooperation, even alliances, are possible. I can name several possible fields of cooperation: Green Deal, as a common fight against environmental and climate pollution. Rebuilding the Middle East, fighting Islamism that threatens everyone in the South. Russia as a bridge between Europe and Asia – the key word is connectivity. Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Joint space exploration. And if you want: containment of China. “

It remains to be seen whether these lure offers are meant seriously or are only intended to encourage appeasement in Europe that Putin then uses Europe to revise the sphere of influence. In any case, even top strategists in the USA are not sure At least there are two factions in the US administration, the Pentagon and the US military. One faction perceives Russia and China both as the most important enemies you have to fight both at the same time, while the other faction thinks that China is the top enemy, main competitor and rival, while Russia is a not that an important enemy and more comparable to North Korea, Iran and the Islamic State like General Milley or General Berger who wants to downgrade the Russian threat or the Longer Telegramm of the Atlantic Council which even think s about an comprehensive and not selective cooperation with Russia to contain China- “whether we like it or not”. Similar to Trump before who pushed an anti-Chinese G 11 which was a more illusionary approach. Likewise, John Mearsheimer, pioneer of “offensive realism”, believes that Russia will enter into comprehensive cooperation, if not alliance, with the USA and the West in the medium and long term, since China is becoming too powerful and Russia feels threatened and doesn´t want to become China’s raw material appendages and colony – provided the West also behaves in such a way that Russia can change camps  However, it is also up to Moscow to give signals that it is interested in less tense relations.

 

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